Number plate recognition scheme flawed

22 November 2005

  • Cameras to catch uninsured drivers not accurate
  • One in five readings proving incorrect
  • Inaccuracies in DVLA's database too

New speed camera 2

High-tech cameras being used to clamp down on uninsured drivers are misreading number plates, and innocent motorists are being stopped by police as a result.

The Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras were set to work with police last month. Suspicious cars are flagged up after checks are made against insurance and tax databases.

However, according to Home Office minister, Paul Goggins, one in five readings is proving incorrect, which could put thousands of law-abiding motorists in the sights of police every day.

Besides inaccurate readings from the cameras, motorists could also be wrongly accused because of inaccuracies in the DVLA's database.

To avoid unwarranted attention from police using the cameras, make sure your number plates are in good condition and kept clean. Also make sure that the size and spacing of letters doesn't deviate from the prescribed limits, which can be found at

It may also be worth carrying proof of insurance in your car, so that if you are stopped, you can quickly prove you are covered.

• An estimated 1.4 million motorists drive without insurance in the UK, while one in five visitors to admitted they have done so. Accidents involving uninsured drivers cost around £500 million a year and add £30 onto the insurance policies of law-abiding motorists.

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